The travel sector is one of the largest industries in the world accounting for the 10.2% of the global GDP (Deloitte, 2018). The recent surge in unforeseen geopolitical events such as terrorism, Brexit and the U.S. travel ban inadvertently impact the travel sector leading more and more travel brands to acknowledge the importance of a customer-centric approach.
On top of that, the travel industry saw drastic technological advances driven by sharing economy and Blockchain – each decentralising highly regulated industries, putting the users at the heart of the business. Therefore this article will focus on trends mostly driven by the customer in the travel sector.
“A bigger role for the travel brands - Creating memorable experiences for your customers consolidating data and technologies”
One stop shop experience
The majority of big travel brands has already expanded their services beyond their core business to offer a full experience to their customers. Just offering flights is not enough anymore. Vendors now offer the travel to the airport, airport lounge passes, event tickets, hotel rooms, tours and activities etc. Therefore, using experiences to unleash customers’ full revenue potential.
Some travel brands have already started positioning themselves as the one stop shop that travellers would ever need on every stage of their travel journey – from planning, packing, en-route or on location.
For example, KML Royal Dutch Airlines offers accommodation, tours and activities, transportation to airport, the online retail shops and online destination guides.
(Source: KML Royal Dutch Airlines)
Singapore Airlines’ native app provides customers with anything they might need - from digital magazines and entertainment system to booking a ride to the airport.
Also, in the pursuit of providing leisure travelers with a true and unique experience, it emerged what is known as “experience economy”. It is one of the fastest growing and probably one of the most promising trends in 2018. Airbnb launched the experience service in 2016, which according to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesk it is growing 13 times faster than home business and generates 1.5 million bookings annually (Fortune, 2017). American Express offers the “Travel Insider” service where customers can choose a travel expert who shares similar interests and travel preferences with them and design together a trip tailored to their needs.
Mobile-First Experience A seamless experience at the end of your thumb
Nowadays, consumers expect a seamless and tailored to their needs experience at the end of their thumb. They also expect the travel companies to anticipate and fulfil their needs before they realised them. A staggering 83% of Millennials would allow travel brands track their digital patterns if this would provide them with a more personalized experience (American Express Survey) while over one in three travelers would even pay more for a personalised service (ThinkwithGoogle, 2018). The mobile experiences along with technologies such as Voice, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence entirely changed the customers’ expectations and in turn, the opportunities for the travel brands which could be divided into the following three areas
Many travelers rely solely on their mobile to manage their trip - access their boarding pass, keep updated on flights changes and checked baggage and navigate to a new city. When your flight is delayed how stressful it is to reschedule your transportation, inform the hotel, cancel your restaurant reservation and reschedule everything you scheduled for that day. Now imagine one app that would be able to orchestrate all your mobile functionalities and update everything for you.
The average person in the UK travels abroad around 2 times per year (Statista, 2017) which also represents the number of times that a travel company might have the opportunity to communicate with its customers. On the other hand, people are using everyday social media apps, social messaging or even voice search. We will see more and more travel companies going where their customers are, instead of waiting for customers to download their app, or book on their site.
KLM mobile channels fully integrate with WeChat and Messenger where customers can search for flights, book their flights, issue their boarding pass and check the flight status.
By 2020, it is projected that 50% of all searches will be voice searches (comScore research). Many travel companies continue to invest heavily in voice search. Just to name a few, Heathrow Airport, American Airlines and Easyjet use Alexa Skill through which customers can track their flight status, search for destinations etc.
Although technology made the booking process less strenuous, people still perceive some travel-related tasks as very stressful and time consuming. Every traveler has faced long queues at the airport, issues with online check-in, excess baggage fees, flight delays, long queues for the hotel check-in etc. The travel sector is heavily investing in creating a frictionless travel journey which consist of two parts: automating daunting tasks and offering what travelers need at each step of the journey in real time.
Concepts that focus on automating tasks as automated check-in, flight check-in with smartphone’s facial recognition, digital hotel keys is fast becoming mainstream in the industry. The challenge lies in of using customer data to identify potential issues and offer what customers need at the time they need it.
Travel Journey example:
The first company that is able to offer a real time, frictionless and unique experience to its customers by consolidating the user data and technologies to an end to end solution would win big.
Learn more at: oracle.com/marketingcloud